I’ve got those email blues.

My morning routine has not changed for several years.   At 6:4o there is the pad, pad, thud of the cat coming up the stairs (the thud is because she only has three legs and her back end is rather more ungainly than that of the average cat) followed by the duvet being dragged down as she scrambles onto the bed.   She potters towards the pillows and sits gently on my head, indicating that it is time she was fed.

At 6:45 the alarm goes off (followed by the cat as she leaps to safety) and I reach to turn the alarm off and grab my phone to check the news, email and how poorly I am doing in my latest game of scrabble against a colonial cousin.

I’ve a new phone.   I abandoned the apple flavoured one as it was spending more time on the phone charger than off it.   I now have “HTC one (M8)”.   I thought the M8 might be text speak for the phone being the ultimate best buddy but it turns out that it’s just the one after M7.

New phone is showing that I sent several emails around 1:30 last night.   I don’t remember sending any emails at all.  Certainly not at that time of night, after all, it’s a work night and I think I was fast asleep by that time.    Confused, I checked the contents of the sent emails.   They were all different but along the same lines.   An example of a couple, word for word are.

“Well you might say that, but is it a bad thing? Here I’d a choice: I’m ravaged by illness and I shall be spending my life struggling to breath and will need somebody to help me to the toilet for”


“The Soviet presence is probably s fake.   When they landed on the moon they didn’t expect the consequences and so they only took”

The curious thing about both of the above examples are the mistakes.   I have been struggling with the predictive text on the keyboard.  I have frequently sent “I’d” instead of “I’ve” and I am constantly typing “s” instead of “a”, so I suspect that I have, in the middle of night, sleep-typed emails to random acquaintances.   Not only have I sent these emails but the contents are of a somewhat dubious nature.

That’s not the most worrying thing though.   I (or the phantom email writer) has also deleted all of the text messages from the phone.   Every single one of them.    I have phone contacts going back years, both business and personal.   There are about 500 mobile phone numbers stored and there’s just a small chance that I may have sent equally random text messages to random people and then deleted them so now I have a dilemma.   Do I send a text to everybody on my phone saying “Sorry if you got a weird message from me last night” or is that going to be seen as even weirder by anybody who didn’t get a text?

I think I shall just keep my head down.   I think I shall probably turn the phone off tonight and leave it locked in a cupboard somewhere, just in case.

The daily prompt today refers to the worst case scenario, I can’t possibly imagine what the comeback from the wraith of the phone will be, but if you did get a message form me last night.   Can you tell me what it said please?



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Have I got you singing?    Inside your head is there a little voice going “ch ch ch ch changes”?.

As a schoolboy I had a friend who believed that every single line of song that David Bowie wrote had a second and deeper meaning.   We played along with him for sometime but eventually he just became too pretentious for his own good so we asked him to provide a detailed assessment of the hidden thoughts behind The Laughing Gnome.  It probably ruined his life.

I am not overly fond of changes.   The daily prompt has changed its format and while I can see it has many benefits and looks a lot sexier it took me a while to find what I was looking for.   To be fair, this is probably a reflection on me rather than the new look as the phrase “Have you never been mellow” was staring out at me in 40 point font size (Arial I think, or something very close to it).

The prompt is wondering how we wind down after a hard day at work or at school (or perhaps both if you are a teacher, it doesn’t mention that).    I think if it was rephrased to ask “how do your friends think you wind down…” then there would be a unanimous shout from around the UK.   In fact, let’s try it.

Hey everyone.   How does Robby wind down?  What does he do to chill out when he’s not at work?


Did you hear it?  They all shouted “GIN”.


Nothing could be further from the truth of course.    Whilst it is fair to say that I enjoy a very small beaker of Mr Hendrick’s finest occasionally I don’t constantly totter around with a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten at my lips. No, no, no.   I sometimes have a glass of sherry instead.

Relaxing is one of those things that I occasionally excel at.   If I thought I could get away with it I’d put it on my CV.  “In my spare time I sit around and do nothing” but it’s probably not a wise thing to do, I haven’t updated my CV in years mind, I think on the part where I suggest my salary requirements they are listed in pounds, shillings and pence.

Thinking about it, I don’t actually do nothing.   I’m always doing something even when it looks like I’m ready for embalming.    I may be reading a book or I may be sketching a picture (usually in my head, the pictures that I draw in my head are invariably  better than the ones that come out on paper, although whilst sketching a tree in the park recently a very kind -and possibly blind- old dear asked me if I would mind submitting a drawing to a charity auction).

The one thing that I will always be doing is listening to music.   It fascinates me.   I don’t mean classical music, pop for want of a better word.   Almost any pop at all.    It takes me away, it soothes my soul and mends my broken bits.   Regular readers will know that after an unfortunate encounter with an asparagus fern my music centre ceased to function and for a brief while I was singing with no accompaniment.    This is the one area where change has been good, change has been spectacular in fact.   The purchase of a tablet thingy and a healthy investment in some blue tooth speakers has brought Spotify to my kitchen.  I now have all of the music in the world and it is all on a little device smaller than an A4 piece of paper.

The only slight downfall of having all of the music in the world in the palm of your hand is choosing.   With the CD’s you just look at what you have and think “Yup, I’ll listen to S Club Seven’s greatest hits” or “Today won’t be complete until I hear Barry Manilow singing Mandy”.   Where do you start?

I’ve started with Motown.   I think I shall work geographically around the world but what better place to start than Detroit.   This means that whilst you have been singing ch ch ch changes through my little blog I have been Gladys Knight.  Or more accurately I have been The Pips.  There is surely no better thing in all the world than to sing the backing vocals to “Midnight Train to Georgia”, find a copy of the song, get a copy of the lyrics and just sing the words in brackets.   You’ll sing  “Guess who’s gonna be right by his side” and know that you have the glorious “Whoo whoo” coming up soon and a little bit of you will thank me for giving you such joy.




Filed under Getting old, music

Don’t do it

My leg is falling off.

Slowly, it’s a very drawn out process.   If I was a betting man then I’d wager that as I stroll down the High Street tonight I won’t get home and think “Where’s that leg gone?” and have to follow a bloody trail back past Lidl and the myriad betting shops searching for a missing limb.   There’s a possibility that it will never fall off of it’s own accord and somebody will have to take a hacksaw to it and leave me with a stump.   I shall forever after go to fancy dress parties as a pirate.   I may fashion different prostheses to suit my needs.  I shall have a disco leg with LED lights up the side and I shall have a swimming leg with extraordinarily wide feet.   The possibilities are endless.

Of course it isn’t a foregone conclusion that my leg will fall off.    There is a good chance that it won’t.    If one imagines one’s body as road map then there is a serious accident blocking the route down to my southern extremities.   The arterial highways agency have had one go at clearing the route but it was a bit of a failure.   They may have another go one day or they may decide that it would be better to build an alternative route using synthetic materials.   A trunk road in my trunk perhaps.

The question is, who can I blame for this?   I need a scapegoat.   It can’t all be my fault…

The daily prompt asks us what would we do if we could turn back the hands of time.   I’ve been thinking about this whilst annoying colleagues by singing R Kelly songs (I know it was originally Tyrone Davis, I’m not that old though) and decided that I would chose to never meet Ellen Cole.   That would do me just fine.

Ellen introduced me to nicotine.   Roll-ups to be precise.    She could roll a cigarette one handed with her eyes closed.   Probably on one leg whilst balancing a pile of books on her head.   It was the most elegant sight to behold.   How could I not participate in such a beautifully crafted  thing.   I came quite late to the world of smoking but took to it with gusto.   Soon I too could make a smoke that didn’t look carrot shaped and I could strike a match on my fingernail.   How cool is that.

I eventually stopped when the boy was born.   It was easy, both adults in the house at the time smoked and a quick discussion led to an instant cessation.   I chose grapes as my nicotine substitute and consumed half of the Sauvignon Blanc supply in the first month or so but it worked and I was free of the demon.     I remember after one overly fractious row just prior to me leaving I went to the local shop and purchased 10 Benson and Hedges.    The hit after 11 years without was instant and I was straight back in there.

The first time I fell over was on the golf course.   Bag on my back and walking up a hill.   I knew that my leg had been behaving in a curious manner but wasn’t expecting to keel over and find myself doing a passable impression of a dying fly.   The doc found it hard to believe I was suffering from intermittent claudication.   That only happens in old men!   Old men and me and probably another million smokers around the world.   A blocked artery means that the oxygen delivery to the muscles in my leg is not up to scratch and so when the muscles get more active and need more fuel they can’t get it snd go on strike.  From then on I limp (and sometimes topple).  Rest for a while and everything goes back to normal.  How weird.

The medical equivalent of a dynorod team have been in and shoved the medical equivalent of a pipe cleaner through the artery but it seems to have met with limited success and so the build up continues.    One benefit of course is that I am really very good at walking in circles (as long as I only go anticlockwise).  This takes no effort whatsoever.

So there you go.   I am a walking example of why people should not smoke.   Without some serious intervention at some stage I can look forward to weeping and festering ulcers on my leg, stinking gangrene, my toes turning black and dropping off and the rest of my life in a wheel chair.

Please feel free to use this to remind your children why smoking isn’t clever.


Filed under Getting old

Welcome to the jungle

The daily prompt for today is “Never Surrender”.  I think that this just about qualifies.

I mentioned here about the vegetable patch at the bottom of my garden.   The plot isn’t actually part of the garden but a piece of land to which nobody seems to have claim.  As the land is only accessible by the neighbours and myself and as some of the less renovated dwellings have a garage opening on to this land, we all sort of assume that it is a communal place to do with as we will.

It is quite a sizeable area to be unclaimed.  Adjacent to it is the car park of a church and the church people (with rather unchristian desire) covet our patch of land.    The last invasion attempt involved a couple of cars accidentally reversing into the bordering fence and continuing onwards and backwards towards the rather fine apple trees that somebody planted decades ago.   The apple trees completely outwitted the cars by not falling over and then we residents (in a show of unity not since since the blitz) assembled one Sunday morning and built a sturdier fence that will resist the attacks of the Baptists.   Much like some of the smaller European countries will shall resist our land being annexed.

Back to the vegetable patch.    It is quite large.   I suspect that it is one of the few vegetable patches in West London that can be seen unaided from space.     After 12 months of neglect whilst I was deep in the bowels of Little Project it had become rather overgrown.   Waking at the weekend to the curious sight of no rain I decided to tackle the brambles and the weeds.    If I could only find a medicinal use for blackberry vine and bind weed then I could easily give up on the intoning board and spend my life in luxury.   By Sunday afternoon though I was in a situation where I could sow some seed.

There’s an advert on UK television at the moment for Diet Coke.   It may well be showing world wide.    It features a handsome and muscular gardening chappy pushing a lawn mower.    Several young ladies are watching our hunky hero grafting and one of the beauties rolls a can of Diet Coke down the hill to him.    On opening the can the poor chap is drenched by fizzy soda and so has to remove his shirt and reveal the sort of stomach that can only be gained by hours in the gym (or pushing a lawn mower).   The girls swoon and everybody rushes out to purchase more root beer.

I spent a pleasant hour or so carefully planting seeds into little containers and transporting them to the flimsy lean-to that I laughingly call a greenhouse (it is at least green, mostly from mildew).   There is a water butt that is balanced precariously near to it.  Useful for dipping a watering can in.   The water butt is understandably full to overflowing at the moment.

I approached the water butt, watering implements in hand with the thought of filling.   At this moment the two little cherubs who live next door (aged 6 and 4) approached with some excitement.   “Have you seen the dead fox?”.

Because I was distracted by the little angels, I didn’t pay attention to where I placed my feet.   A quick stumble and I was embracing the water butt in a manner not dissimilar to a fellow cast adrift in a rough sea with only a barrel to keep him afloat.  As I keeled backwards the water butt came with me.    The (full) water butt contains 210 litres (that’s 46 gallons to my colonial cousins) or, to put it another way, roughly four times the amount of fluid it takes me to drive 500 miles in my car.

It was no contest really.   Once it had decided it was going to get me it got me.   The gentle lapping over the side became a torrent as we slowly tumbled backwards.    The girls squealed with delight, this was far more interesting than a dead fox.   Butt and I ended up in a position that would probably be described by my churchy neighbours as “reverse missionary”.    Having disgorged  208 litres of water, Butt then decided that whilst down it would also ejaculate the 2 litres of sludge that had gradually settled at the base of the butt over the last few years.

Wet through and smelling of the stuff that makes roses grow I stood.  Two little girls were rolling on the floor with mirth.

Nobody offered me a Diet Coke.


Filed under Getting old, rants

You know Gail Baker down the road?

The daily prompt asks what traditions we have.   Oh goodness, where to start.

It would be fair to say that I come from a family of repeaters.   A single phrase can last for generations.   The title of this post relates to the distraction tactic my sister used to avoid bedtime.    The slightest hint that it was getting around the time that a young girl should be heading for the stairs was met with “You know Gail Baker up the road?”.   Legend has it that this was generally followed with a suitably interesting comment designed to provoke conversation and avoid the inevitable.   The most frequently repeated phrase has to be “well she’s got three pimples on her nose”.     Poor Gail Baker.    I wonder if she is aware that for the last half of a century her name has been mentioned on a weekly basis in various households around the country.

I believe it was our father who initiated these rituals.  Certainly it was he who had a stock set of comments that covered every single occasion.    One only had to clear the throat to be advised “It ain’t the cough that carries you off it’s the coffin they carry you off in” and impending rain was invariably greeted with “It’s looking black over the back of Bill’s mothers”.    For many years I assumed that somewhere in direct line of sight of our front window lived Bill’s mum and the weather always came in from that direction.

Packing for a trip required (and still does require) a breathy little monologue of “VestsPantsShirtsShoesSocksTowelSoap”, just to ensure that nothing was forgotten.   I have considered modifying this to take into account the myriad electrical items that accompany us on our journey these days but it just doesn’t sound right.

By the age of 5 it was almost law that we could recite (without reference) The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God, mostly thanks to grandfather reeling it off at every possible opportunity.    I have met a couple of people in the intervening years with the surname of Carew and I always gaze at them with sadness and wonder if they would be willing to risk everything to pilfer the eye of the god for the love of the Colonel’s daughter.

The strangest one though, the most curious ongoing bit of speech requires at least two people.    I have searched in vain for where it comes from.  It may be from a play or a book, I don’t know.  If you can enlighten me then I and the rest of the family will be in your debt.    In alternate voices it goes like this…

“Have you head the news?”

“What news?”

“The Squire’s daughter has been foully murdered!”

“Murdered?  And who has been accused of the crime.”

“The Squire”

The Squire?”

And on it went (and on and on and on).    I’m pleased to report that these oral traditions are all alive and well and under no threat of extinction in the near future.   I recently heard my son say “I doubt it”, followed by “said the lady as she peed on the fire” and within the last week mother’s facebook status was “You’ll never guess who I saw up the road” to which several people (not all family) replied “Was it Gail Baker?”.

We do carry one non-verbal tradition with us.  It is called “The Day After Boxing Day”.   On this day family and friends gather at the ancestral home and just after lunch the conversation drops and the menfolk start removing shoes, wallets, belts and anything else that can be discarded whilst keeping dignity intact.   A set of ancient scales are produced and every male present is weighed.   Weights are carefully recorded in a black ledger that goes back around 35 years and the heaviest person present is awarded the Pink Pig of Fatness and a Nil by Mouth sign to hang around their neck.    It’s a curious thing to do and it causes disruption from about September onwards as one starts to think “Oh crikey, I don’t want the pig, I better start dieting”.

Traditions.  Don’t you love them.    Clicking on the link at the top of the post will take you to other tales of tradition far more interesting than mine.


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And then she smiled

I thought that I would celebrate world smile day.   I’m on leave, the sun is shining, there is the prospect of an enjoyable afternoon doing exactly as I wish so it seems an obvious thing to do.   The problem is that world smile day seems to be on October 4th according to the internet (and we all know that the internet knows everything), so instead I am celebrating national “If your name begins with R then smile” day (shortened to IYNBWRTS for the sake of my keyboard).

What is it that makes us smile?   I don’t mean a guffaw or a chuckle but just a general happy smile on our face.    It can be anything.   Darling son used to have a beatific smile immediately before filling his nappy.   I am pretty sure that he has grown out of it now and I really don’t want to know if he hasn’t.   I suspect it was some sort of infant joy in the anticipation that he would shortly have his bits out in the open and have the opportunity to wee all over his father.  We’ve always had that sort of relationship.

I started IYNBWRTS with a trip to the supermarket.  Here’s a good game.  Smile at everybody possible.   It has to be a different smile for each person, you can’t just keep the same smile on your face for the entire visit.   For added emphasis you can throw in a nod or a wink too (I don’t recommend winking at anybody who is bigger than you or is of the same sex) and see what happens.   There will be a few confused looks.   There will be some who try to work out where they know you from but the overwhelming majority will smile back and nod (although probably not wink).    You can go on your way safe in the knowledge that for at least some of the people you have smiled at you’ve given them something to think about (even if it is only “That bloke is a nutter”).

I parked up on the High Street and there was a traffic warden eyeing up an errant vehicle (traffic wardens have possibly the worst job in the world.  Nobody loves them, they never get invited to parties and they can only marry other traffic wardens), I smiled at it (you can’t tell what sex the traffic wardens are round here because they whizz around on little mopeds and are bedecked in massive coats and crash helmets), then a toothy grin came back from somewhere deep inside the protective head gear, the parking ticket book was put away and the warden moved on.   My smile has just saved somebody sixty quid.   That’s enough to make anybody smile.

I thought I’d come back and write a little blog about smiling.   Just because.   I know that there is one person at least who reads the blog who probably isn’t smiling at the moment.    It would be good to think that after the little ping in the inbox, she read the post and then she smiled.


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Get Rich. Quick.

I love the spell checker available on mobile phones.   They introduce a randomness to conversations that can take one off in an entirely different direction.  I recently received a text from a friend explaining that they were about to get the ironing board out.  The rather amusing spellchecker on their phone decided to tell me that they were in fact going to get out their intoning board.   Oh what joy!  Let us revel.   I (and a nameless other) are going to be rich.

Ladies and gentlemen.  An offer that you cannot refuse.

Now available by mail order.   Delivered direct to your door.   The opportunity that you have been waiting for.

This once in a lifetime offer is guaranteed to bring peace and tranquility into your life.   Where once you floundered in a sea of confusion, when previously you wrestled with the challenges of modern life.   VerbalHedge Inc. brings you the greatest stress relief system since the invention of the kitten.    Tested rigorously to assure you of quality and approved by international regulators TIPSI we are proud to offer you The Intoning Board.

The Intoning Board will:

  • Provide you with inner peace.
  • Wash away the stress of modern life.
  • Give access to higher plains previously only available to high functioning Swami masters.

Don’t just take our word for it.   Take a look at the quality of our professional level intoning board.

Ironing boardAs you can see it is made from top grade aeronautical level aluminum and comes complete with three different coloured intoning platform covers.   The cover shown (blue) is recommended for those stepping out for the first time into intoning.  More experienced practitioners can choose the yellow (not shown) cover and there is a red drape (not shown) for experts.   We would advise against using the red (not shown) shroud until at after at least eight months on the yellow (not shown) cover.  Additionally, every intoning board is fitted as standard with a special plate suitable for holding vegetable juice (other drinks are also available).

How it works

Developed from an ancient prototype recently discovered deep in the bowels of an ancient monastery in a little explored region of Tibet.    The original board is thought to have been a training tool for Samanera to guide them on their path of Vinaya through to Bhikkhu.   It can perhaps be imagined as the literal interpretation of Buddha’s instructions to “live as an island unto one’s self”.

Each of our intoning boards contains a small piece of the “spirit of life”, previously guarded jealously by a troupe of highly trained and reclusive warrior monks who live on a diet of rose petals brought to them by termites.   This exclusive band only agreed to provide the spirit of life once they were guaranteed access to Sky Sports 1 for two hours every day.

The user of the board lays horizontally on it and focuses their energies directly into the soul of the earth.   Once connection is made then by constant intoning the board gradually becomes entwined with the consciousness of the user and rises up through the seven rings of spirituality (not shown).  The traditional intonation of “ohhhhhhmmm” can be supplemented by use of the free app available to all purchasers of the intoning board (iOS and android only, Blackberry users are beyond help).

Where can I get my Intoning Board?

Intoning boards are available through several different purchase routes.   Call our telesales service centre now on 0800 INTONE or visit our website to get a great deal.    Amazon prime users can benefit from our special Mayan bonus deal that includes a free copy of Mayan prophecies up to and including 2012.

That’s not all!  The first 5,000 lucky purchasers will also receive a free DVD on intoning techniques.  The DVD (narrated by Nirishma Gruntakfrtapriso) features the Minogue sisters demonstrating how to intone to red cover standards in 72 easy steps and has additional footage of NASA space shuttle pilots using their Intoning Boards in zero gravity.

Remember! Everybody who purchases an Intoning Board receives a free app (unless you are on Blackberry) to enhance your intoning experience.

The Intoning Board is available for just three simple monthly payments of £199.   You may return your Intoning Board at any time up to the first three days of use providing it has not been unpacked.    Features and specification may differ from those specified.

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